Popsicles in a Plastic Bag.

When I worked as a preschool teacher, I always preferred the students who brought their lunch in a Tupperware as opposed to a plastic bag. With 11 children under the age of 4 trying to nourish themselves, there are a multitude of possible choking moments. Plastic bags, the desire of a 3-year-old to suck on it, the chance of a small piece lodging in his throat, and me having to deal with an emergency situation are all avoidable if lunch is packed in hard, large-pieced containers.

Imagine the horror then, when upon arriving in Panama, again to teach young and irresponsible children, I learn that sucking on plastic bags is indeed encouraged, if not considered a favorite pasttime.

Popsicles are refreshing especially in a tropical climate like Panama’s. But popsicles in Panama do not come on a stick; they are home-made in small batches and packaged in (dun dun duuun) platic bags.

These local ice-pops are fondly known as duros. In order to access the sweet, cool icey-ness inside, one grips the tied end, and with the inscisors, rips a hole in a corner of the bag, continuing on to suck and chew until the contents of the bag have been drained.

I have since become accustomed to this risk-taking activity and even participate in it myself. I no longer cringe when I see a two-year-old swallowing bits of the bag, nor do I reprimand my students when they continue to suck on an empty bag long after its juice has been consumed. I accept the cool, oblong pouch and sit down with the best of them to oblige them in conversation about the heat, or the rain, or this and that while in my mind taking note of whether or not this particular popsicle is of quality or not.

The winner of all local duros though, is the coconut-milk ice pop. Shredded coconut is sit in a bath of water until its milky liquid is released, infusing the water with strong coconut flavor. Once the coconut milk is ready, a chug-a-lug or two of evaporated milk, straight out of the machete-pierced can, is added along with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Top that off with (too much) sugar, give it a good mix, and pour the concoction by the cup-full into slender plastic bags. These milky spiced-coconut ice pops are only enhanced when allowed time on the counter before freezeing so that the coconut cream rises to the surface, creating a creamy layer on the top of the pop.

So when choosing your popsicles, it’s worth the wait for a properly crafted duro de coco.